Your writing questions answered! A gift to you.
Candice Green: I’ve been thinking a lot about POV. Aside from the obvious, what would you say the major differences are between 1st and 3rd person? Do you feel one is more expressive than the other? Also, do you feel you can you play with POV when you write something in 1st person? Can you do more than one POV with it?
Good question! Point of view is a tricky situation on the best of days. I’ll have to take some time to answer it. 1st person creates an intimate closeness with the reader, and it is very hard to create distance with this POV. If you do, it feels very synopsis-y, like you’re telling someone what you did without going into details. The strength here is that it limits who’s heads you can go into (unless the narrator is a psychic). 3rd person has three major modes: omniscient, limited, and objective. Here you can play with distance and “mind-reading.” Also, 3rd person is slightly easier to write in for most people.
Now, as to which is more expressive, it depends entirely on the piece. Some POV does not work. In Lolita by Nabokov the POV makes the story work. If it was in third person, the reader couldn’t feel the same if they were doing those things. In essensence it all depends on what you are going for. 1st creates intimacy, but can lead to sentimentality. 3rd person is usually a “safer” choice to write in, as you have a little more breathing room. 3rd person can be very intimate, but it can also be very distant.
To answer whether or not you can play with POV in 1st person, yes, you can. It is very difficult to do well. Switching to another character is very disorienting (as it is still the I voice, and feels similar). Always try, though if you want and see if it works. You may surprise yourself! There is a lot less wiggle room in 1st person than in 3rd person.
You can write in three modes in first person. First, you can write in narrator tells story about him/herself: this is the basic idea of the first person. “I am telling a story about me.” Second, you can have a narrator tell a story about someone else, i.e. The Great Gatsby. “I am telling a story about someone else.” Third, you have a group of people tell a story, “We are telling a story.” This is first person plural.